Tornado winds estimated at 120 mph
WATFORD CITY, N.D. – The tornado that hit a northwest North Dakota housing camp Monday evening had estimated winds speeds of 120 mph, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.
John Paul Martin, warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service in Bismarck, said the tornado was an EF2 on the enhanced Fujita scale that rates the strength of tornadoes from 0 to 5.
Martin said most tornadoes in North Dakota are weaker, an EF0 or EF1.
An EF2 tornado has winds in the 110 to 135 mph range.
Eyewitnesses have reported three separate tornadoes, but Martin said that would be almost impossible to confirm.
Residents of the camp returned Tuesday to go through the wreckage and retrieve belongings.
Nine people were treated for injuries and one was critically injured, said McKenzie County Emergency Manager Karolin Rockvoy.
Sheriff John Fulwider said the tornado destroyed 12 to 15 RVs or trailers south of Watford City.
“We are very fortunate that we didn’t have any fatalities last night,” Fulwider said. “It’s a really isolated spot that the tornado did touch down. We were very lucky.”
A team from the National Weather Service arrived on scene Tuesday morning.
Several cars were smashed or overturned and debris and downed power lines littered the nearby ditches.
The tornado hit in the heart of North Dakota’s Oil Patch, with many people who have come to the area for jobs using RVs or other temporary housing.
Resident Anthony Beyda took shelter from the tornado in the hallway of his RV. The walls caved in as debris struck the side of the structure.
“RVs ain’t made for it. It wasn’t even a contest,” Beyda said.
Beyda got 16 stitches in the side of his head and spent the night in a Red Cross shelter set up at the Watford City Civic Center.
“God loves me,” said Beyda, a welder from Wyoming.
Eight people spent the night in the Red Cross shelter. The Red Cross will be working with city and state emergency managers to determine the needs after several families were displaced.
Martin, with the National Weather Service, said a tornado warning was issued for areas of McKenzie County at about 7:46 p.m. CDT Monday and learned shortly afterward that a tornado had touched down.
About 1 mile south of Watford City, Reino Rousu was hunkered down in his shop during the storm with his four children as hail larger than golf balls pelted the steel roof.
“It sounded like you were sitting in a firing range,” Rousu said.
Rousu watched what he thinks were three tornadoes touch down farther south of his home.
“You could see debris flying around it,” Rousu said. “It was on the ground for a long time.”
Rousu is contract manager for GHB Realty, which owns an extended stay housing facility south of Watford City.
“We were lucky it didn’t touch down on us,” Rousu said. “We just got the hail and the hard wind.”
The storm moved southeast through McKenzie County and headed toward Dunn County and the cities of Killdeer and Dunn Center, as well as Little Missouri State Park and the McKenzie Bay Recreation Area.
Dunn County Sheriff Clay Coker said his area received 1.9 inches of rain in less than an hour, but no hail.
“If you were driving, you’d probably have to stop it’s raining so hard,” Dunn County Emergency Manager Denise Brew said.